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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: November 12, 2018

A new holiday tradition, ‘Elf’ musical comes to town – twice

Written by: Ray Routhier

Elf The Broadway Musical will bring its national tour to Portland’s Merrill Auditorium for three shows on Friday and Saturday. The tour is being presented locally by Portland Ovations.
Photo by Joan Marcus

Will “Elf” become something akin to “The Nutcracker?” The go-to holiday extravaganza families see year after year?

It may be a little too early to tell, but we know “Elf” has been wildly popular since debuting as musical on Broadway in 2010. Various tours have been traveling the country ever since.

But, this year, people in Maine will get the chance to make “Elf” part of their annual holiday celebration with two upcoming productions.

“Elf The Broadway Musical” will bring the show’s national tour to Portland’s Merrill Auditorium for three shows, Friday and Saturday. The national tour is being presented locally by Portland Ovations. It’s the tour’s first time in Portland.

The Ogunquit Playhouse is putting on a production of “Elf The Musical,” featuring Broadway performers and local children, at the Music Hall in Portsmouth, N.H., Nov. 28 through Dec. 16.

The organizers of both sets of shows say they hope they can bring “Elf” to the area again in the future, so that people can make it part of their holiday fun.

Scene from “Elf The Broadway Musical.”
Photo by Joan Marcus

For Portland Ovations, which brings in touring groups, that all depends on when the touring group is available. Aimee Petrin, executive and artistic director of Portland Ovations, said her organization had been trying to bring “Elf The Broadway Musical” to Portland for several years, but had trouble finding an open date and a Portland venue to match up with the dates the tour was traveling. This year, the tour had a mid-November date available, and Merrill was not yet booked with other holiday shows.

“We’d love to have the tour back if we could thread the needle again and find the right date,” said Petrin. “I think there’s enough room in Portland to have the wonderful holiday traditions we have now, plus new things.”

This year, the Ogunquit Playhouse is also putting on a version of “Elf,” said Brad Kenney, executive artistic director of the playhouse. Kenney said he hopes to do the show again at some point in the future, and maybe do it every other year or two. He said the playhouse already does that with the show “White Christmas” at the Music Hall. Ogunquit Playhouse operates at its venue May through October.

“Elf the Musical” is based on the 2003 Will Ferrell comedy movie about a “normal” boy named Buddy raised among Santa’s elves in the North Pole. He grows to twice their size, and when he learns he’s not an elf, he travels to New York City to find his real family. A classic fish-out-of-water tale results.

The story was made into a musical that debuted on Broadway in 2010, with some dozen songs. The show’s songs were written by Broadway veteran Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin (“The Wedding Singer”), and the book was written Tony Award winners Thomas Meehan (“Annie” and “The Producers”) and Bob Martin (“The Drowsy Chaperone”).

The Broadway tour production, the one playing at Merrill Auditorium, is a “huge Broadway musical,” with bright costumes and splashy sets, said Mackenzie Lesser-Roy, who plays Jovie, who befriends Buddy and later becomes his wife.

Lesser-Roy said that, besides the added dance numbers and catchy tunes, fans of the movie will be glad to know that there are several lines of dialogue from the movie.

“There are a lot of super fans of the movie who come to the show,” said Lesser-Roy.

Lesser-Roy said she’s heard from previous cast members that at some theaters they play, they have seen the same people returning from one year to the next. So it’s already become a tradition for some.

For the Ogunquit Playhouse production, hundreds of actors attended auditions in New York City, Kenney said. The role of Buddy went to Steven Booth, who starred as Charlie in the first national tour of “Kinky Boots.” Jovie is played by Diana Huey, who was Ariel in the first national tour of “The Little Mermaid.”

“We are very excited about this production and we hope to return it at some point,” said Kenney.

‘ELF THE BROADWAY MUSICAL: NATIONAL TOUR’

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $50 to $75 at box office; $7 fee for phone or online orders
INFO: portlandovations.org

‘ELF THE MUSICAL’

WHEN: Nov. 28 through Dec. 16
WHERE: The Music Hall, 28 Chestnut St., Portsmouth, N.H.
HOW MUCH: $45 to $97
INFO: ogunquitplayhouse.org, themusichall.org

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